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Green electricity won’t help with pollution disparities

Image of exhaust coming out of the tailpipe of a bus.

Enlarge (credit: dpullman / Getty Images)

In the US, minorities are exposed to higher pollution levels than other populations. This is at least partly explained by the fact that we tend to build things like power plants and freeways in low-income neighborhoods, which is also where minorities tend to live. The shift away from fossil fuel use can potentially lower the burden on minorities, shuttering fossil fuel plants and reducing the number of vehicles that burn fuel.

A new analysis on decarbonization’s effects on pollution shows that minorities will see their exposure fall. But it indicates that minorities are likely to still be disproportionately affected unless we specifically focus on reducing their exposure.

Exposure

Burning fossil fuels releases a variety of pollutants into the environment. Chief among these are particulates; one category alone (PM 2.5) is estimated to lead to 100,000 premature deaths annually in the US. Before their death, people are often saddled with extensive health costs and lost productivity.

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